Tapping Emerging Brands to Fill the Gaps of Covid-19 Out-of-Stocks  3/17/2020

A familiar scene at every mass retailer today

We’ve all seen the photos – people lined up at Costco and Trader Joe’s, empty shelves where there once stood rolls of paper towels, toilet paper, and bulk foods (and people getting into brawls over these products) and limits being imposed on the amount of in-stock products consumers can actually purchase. 

As an apartment-dwelling New Yorker with 30 restaurants outside my door, I’ve had to stock up my typically empty pantry with a combination of products scrounged from wherever I could find them -- cans of canned beef stew, bulk ramen noodles, and toilet paper from my local CVS, some eggs and cheese from a local organic market, and two 18-pack boxes of Peanut Butter Clif bars from Amazon (just in case). Thankfully, I did have a couple of bottles of hand sanitizer and some disinfecting wipes on-hand, or I would have been out of luck.

Indeed, out-of-stocks of typical household staples are becoming an increasingly common occurrence as reported Covid-19 instances explode and many cities are going into a quasi-lockdown state to “flatten the curve,” including my own, which as of yesterday has banned restaurants and bars from operating outside of delivery and takeout options.

However, all of this has created opportunities for new and emerging brands to fill in the gaps left open by these out-of-stock products. In a recent podcast interview with Jeffrey Bordes, Business Development Manager for Albertsons Marketplace, he discussed how shoppers on the “endless aisle” platform created by the grocery chain have been snapping up products from emerging brands that address the areas of pantry-filling, cleaning/disinfecting, and immunity-boosting -- even though they may not be your typical products that address these needs.

Albertsons Marketplace is an online shopping experience developed to be a place where consumers can discover new and innovative specialty products from the comfort of home and have them shipped right to their door, direct from the seller. Its merchandisers curate products that are not typically found on grocers' shelves and then present them to in a way that matches how people shop, such as by offering collections for organic products, or a collection for specific dietary needs like GMO-free, non-dairy and gluten free, many of which are produced by small production brands that aren’t easy to find in other places. Like other retailers and its brick-and-mortar parent, the Marketplace has felt the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

“The Marketplace, like all other retailers, has seen a run on home essentials like hand sanitizer and toilet paper, and many of the suppliers of these products – who ship these products directly to Marketplace customers – are out of stock. However, being an endless aisle concept, what we are also seeing is that all of these great smaller brands on the website with products that are needed now are seeing increased sales.”

For example, once seller that Bordes picked up from a recent ECRM program is Plant Therapy, which makes essential oil products that help kill germs. Ever since the outbreak they have seen a spike in sales as consumers are seeking alternatives to out-of-stock cleaners and disinfectant products. 

“People are coming to our marketplace and searching for immunity-boosting products or products that fight germs and these brands are coming up in the searches,” says Bordes. “It's sad that it took something like this virus to do this, but the fact is that we have these sellers on our Marketplace and they have great quality products, and these guys are able to ship today.”

Another company on the Marketplace, Food to Live, has one product that’s a unique combination of shelf-stable and fresh produce: Broccoli Sprouting Seeds. Broccoli sprouts have great health attributes, and can be easily grown at home in a mason jar, and are a great fill in for those who cannot get a hold of fresh produce, and have become one f the top sellers on the Marketplace. “I didn’t know about this before the virus,” says Bordes.

What you can do now
There are several steps you can take to ensure that your customers don’t go without the essential items they are looking for in these times of need. Here are some of them:

  • Reach out to emerging brands: There are many emerging brands out there that provide household essentails, cleaning and disinfecting, and immune support. Many of you may have connected with some of these brands in the past at an ECRM program and perhaps at the time they weren’t a fit. Well, they certainly may be one now. Also, RangeMe is an awesome place to discover brands that can fill in the gaps caused by out-of-stocks, with more than 250,000 suppliers on the platform.
  • Ecommerce offerings: If you have an ecommerce site, consider developing a special Covid-19 essentials page where you can highlight these items and make it easier for shoppers to find them.
  • Social media and digital engagement: Be sure to keep a steady dialogue with your consumers via your social media channels and other digital means to stay on top of their needs, which can change on a daily basis as the virus outbreak progresses. This is a time a great uncerntainty, and with cnsumers basically stuck in their homes for at least the next couple of weeks -- potentially longer -- offering them some reassurance that you are here for them can go a long way in terms of loyalty after the pandemic fades.

We’re all in this together, and we at ECRM and RangeMe are continuously looking for ward in which we can help your business continuity during these challenging times. RangeMe's Enterprise Partner Retailers have been hosting review days in which all of their buyers dedicate one day to reviewing products submitted via their Rangeme product submission link. ECRM is developing some solutions as well that will be anounced shortly. If there is any way in which we can help, please let us know.

Below is the podcast interview with Jeff Bordes from Albertsons Marketplace.


Joseph Tarnowski

VP Content

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